We all know tobacco products are bad for our oral health. From bad breath to gum disease and oral cancer, the science is pretty clear about its effects.
For those who choose to use e-cigarettes or “vapes,” you might assume you’re making a healthier choice over traditional tobacco products, like cigarettes. That’s partially true, since there are far fewer hazardous substances in vapes.
However, you’re never going to get the green light from your dentist to use them. Here's why:
What Is Vaping?
Vapes, or vaporizers, are products that use battery power to heat a liquid to create a vapor, which you inhale. The liquid contains a base such as propylene glycol (used in a wide variety of household items, from hand sanitizer to cosmetics and other food products), a mix of flavorings, and usually nicotine. Vapes can also be used with marijuana.
If you’ve moved from tobacco products to solely vapes or e-cigarettes, you’ve taken a step in the right direction. In the world of public health, this is called “harm reduction.” That means that if you’re going to smoke, you might as well choose the less bad option.
But the health effects of even the “less bad” option can still do some major harm.
How Vaping Affects Your Mouth
- Reduces blood flow to tissues in your mouth. Most vapes deliver nicotine to your mouth and lungs. You can choose the quantity of nicotine in the liquid (“juice”) you use, but any amount of nicotine is addictive. Nicotine reduces blood flow, which restricts the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the tissues in your mouth. This means that your mouth will be slower to heal any trauma, tooth decay, or infections in your gums.
- Reduces ability of gum tissue to repair itself. Gingival fibroblasts, special types of cells in our gum tissue, are constantly at work repairing and replacing tissue. Nicotine has been shown to reduce the ability of these cells to do this important work.
- Increases amount of inflammatory proteins. A recent study showed that the flavorings in vapes can cause higher levels of inflammatory proteins in gum tissue. Such proteins are created when our bodies sense something is not right. We have higher levels when we are sick with a cold, for instance. Elevated levels mean the body is stressed. Chronically elevated levels of inflammatory proteins have been associated with Alzheimer’s, depression, and heart disease.
During Your Next Visit
Next time you’re at the dentist, ask if your exam reveals any issues that may be related to vape use, such as receding gums, ongoing infections, or tooth loss.
The more you vape, the more physical consequences you'll see. If you want to reduce the damage, but can’t give up vaping, then do it less often and choose lower amounts of nicotine in the juice you use. But if you’re looking to attain the healthiest and brightest smile of all your friends, your best bet is to give it up altogether. And save some money ;)